Friday, May 24, 2019

His Word Today: Chosen

Good morning everyone,

In many ways, the world around us is constantly trying to convince us that we have to work in order to gain any reward.  This is true in some circumstances, but when it comes to relationships, especially close and loving relationships, we often find that we receive much more than we invest.

The same is true of our relationship with God.  In today's gospel, we are reminded of the words Jesus spoke to his disciples: It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you (Jn 15:16).  Before we had even an inkling of who God is, God has already known and loved each one of us at the very core of our being.  Whether or not we are aware of His presence, God has already chosen us to be his beloved children.

How absolutely privileged we are to have such an exalted position.  Consider today the fact that you (and I) have been chosen, surrounded with goodness, light and love from the moment of our conception, and that we will always be bearers of this blessing, even as we pass through the gates of heaven and enter into life eternal.

Have a great day.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

His Word Today: Love

Good morning everyone,

Someone once asked: Have you ever fallen in love?  If we have known the bliss of truly falling in love with someone else, perhaps we can appreciate the motivation to always want the best for that other person, for no other reason than the desire for that person's happiness.

If we have indeed experienced this bliss, perhaps we have a glimpse at understanding what Jesus was communicating in today's gospel passage: As the Father loves me, so I also love you (Jn 15:9).  Our heavenly Father loves us with divine love which far exceeds the limits of human love.

As we contemplate this truth, let us ask the Lord to share with us the great depth of His love for us: to help us fall in love again.  His is a love that surpasses our deepest desire and fills up every one of our hopes.  It is enough for us to ask and our God will warm our hearts and shower us with this gift.  What a wonderful blessing it is to be loved so deeply!

Have a great day.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

His Word Today: Vines

Good morning everyone,

There are two grape vines in my parents' back yard.  They have been there for many years now.  The neighbours on either side of my parents' home planted these vines in their own yards but with time the vines have grown through the fences, and in recent years there have been copious harvests of grapes.  In the early years, the vines did not bear much fruit, but each year, as Autumn arrives, the vines are pruned - right back to the original plants, and each spring, the vines spring forth with new shoots which intertwine their way along the fences.  With the heat of the summer sun, these vines eventually bear fruit, and what luscious fruit it is.

I thought immediately of these grape vines when I read today's gospel passage.  Jesus taught his disciples: I am the true vine and my father is the vine grower (Jn 15:1).  He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and any one that does, he prunes so that it bears more fruit (Jn 15:2).

Like the grape vines in my parents' yard, we need to remain connected to Jesus.  We need to keep contact with him, because it is he who is at work within us, reaching out through our hands to touch the world with his compassion and looking upon the world through our eyes in order to share the gift of his compassion with those who are in need.  All we need to do is to realize that it is Jesus who is at work in us.  He will take care of the pruning, the fertilizing and everything involved in caring for the vine, and he will put us in places where we can reach out in his name to touch the world with kindness, love and joy.

Have a great day.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

His Word Today: Peace

Good morning everyone,

In today's gospel passage (Jn 14:27-31), we hear Jesus offering the gift of peace.  He says to the disciples: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you (Jn 14:27).  Then he goes on to say: Not as the world gives do I give it to you.  In this way, Jesus wishes to distinguish his gift of peace from the practice of so many in our world who make promises but never fulfill their words.

Jesus' word is always true.  It is always sincere and we can always count on him.  If Jesus promises to share with us the gift of peace, then we can be assured that we will have his gift, a peace that is everlasting, a peace that exists between those who know and trust one another implicitly, a trust that fills us with confidence because we know that we are never alone.

This same gift of peace is offered to us today.  Let us pray for the grace to recognize it, to celebrate it and to share the good news of having known this great gift from the Lord with others we may encounter today.  And furthermore, if we should encounter someone who is in need of peace, let us not be hesitant to reassure them that Christ's gift of unfailing peace is also offered to them.

Have a great day.

Monday, May 20, 2019

His Word Today: Saint Bernardine of Siena

Good morning everyone,

Yesterday in Saint Peter's Square, the Holy Father greeted pilgrims and visitors as he normally does every Sunday.  In his remarks, he reflected on the scriptures for the day, and spoke about the new commandment that Jesus gave to his disciples: ... As I have loved you, so you should love one another (Jn 13:34).  His Holiness went on to explain that although the Mosaic Law had already commanded us to love God (cf Lv 19:18), and although Jesus had already pointed out the importance of loving our neighbour as ourselves (cf Mt 22:38-39), the commandment to love was made new by the addition of the requirement to love as I have loved you.

In the light of this new commandment, we can read today's gospel passage afresh.  Jesus explains to his disciples: whoever loves me will keep my word and my Father will love him him and we will come to him (Jn 14:23).  This is consoling news for us.  We already know that our Father is infinitely more capable of loving than any human being could ever hope to love, but Jesus commands us to love as he has loved us - with infinite love, and he assures us that if we strive to love him in this way, we will have divine assistance to help us accomplish the task of fulfilling this love.

Today, as we observe the liturgical memorial of Saint Bernardine of Siena, let us ask this holy man to intercede for us.  While he was still on earth, he already knew that the last degree of love that Jesus showed his disciples occurred when he gave himself to us to be our Food because he gave himself to us to be united with us in every way. If we have been loved so deeply, we too should strive to love one another as Jesus has loved us.

Have a great day.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

How do we glorify God?

The gospel passage we have just heard occurs immediately after the moment when Judas has left the Upper Room, on his way to speak with the chief priests in order to betray Jesus (cf Mt 26:14-16).  Speaking to the other disciples, Jesus said: Now the Son of Man has been glorified (Jn 13:31).  It might seem strange to think that Jesus - the Son of Man - was glorified in the act of betrayal.  The usual image portrayed by the word glorify is about placing our focus on someone, making a big deal out of them, usually in a good and loving way, and yet Jesus says that he has been glorified in the act of betrayal.

In order to understand the truth of this statement, we need to realize that if Judas had not betrayed Jesus, he would not have been arrested, he would not have suffered, he would not have been crucified, he would not have died - not at that particular moment - and he would not have risen at that moment either.  However, this was the reason for which God had sent him: in order to show us the extent of our God's love for us.  We need to be reminded of this truth, over and over again: it was in his surrender, in his acceptance of human suffering and in his passage through the doorway of physical death that Jesus glorified God.  In this ultimate act of humility, Jesus accomplished the mission for which he was sent.

You and I have also been entrusted with the mission of glorifying God.  We do this every day when we do what Jesus asked us to do.  In those final hours, while he was awaiting Judas' arrival, Jesus told the other disciples: I give you a new commandment, that you love one another (Jn 13:34).  This same commandment has also been entrusted to us.  Like Jesus, we are all called to glorify the Lord, and we do this by loving one other.

The Acts of the Apostles tell the story of how the disciples did their very best to live out this commandment.  In today's first reading, we hear a part of the adventure that Paul and Barnabas travelled to many different places, strengthening the souls of the disciples and encouraging them to continue in the faith (Acts 14:22).  These two followers of the Way had been convinced of God's love for them, and it was this sense of being loved that energized them and drove them to share the joy that they had come to know with others they met along the way.

Even today, the love of God continues to be offered to us because Jesus' gift of self-sacrifice was given once for all time.  Because Jesus glorified God in this way, we too can glorify God by loving one another.  How beautiful it is to see a community of people who joyfully give of themselves out of love for others, with no thought at all for any measure of reward or recognition!

Loving one another is not always easy.  We are far too often made aware of faults and failings, but the more that we strive to look beyond the limits of others, the more we strive every day to love others unconditionally, the more we will contribute to bringing about the realization of the new heaven and the new earth that is described in the book of Revelation (Rev 21:1).  The holy city, the new Jerusalem (Rev 1:2), does not only exist in a vision; it is meant to exist right here, in our midst, and each of us can contribute to the building up of this reality if we try every day to love one another and to glorify God.

Friday, May 17, 2019

His Word Today: Trust

Good evening everyone,

In today's gospel passage, Jesus is strengthening the hearts of his disciples, encouraging them to trust in him and to grow strong in their faith.  By this point in the story, the disciples have had multiple occasions to learn from their teacher, and Jesus is aware of the fact that his days with them are numbered, yet the words Jesus spoke were still difficult for the twelve to comprehend, much less to accept.

Jesus spoke of the upcoming events as though he were setting out on a journey, yet he knew that what was coming would not be easy for them to endure:  Do not let your hearts be troubled, he told them, you have faith in God, have faith also in me (Jn 14:1).  Jesus genuinely cared for and loved the twelve.  He knew that it would not be easy for them to experience his suffering and death, but like any loving father, who knows that his time is near, Jesus also wanted to encourage them: do not let your hearts be troubled.  As a remedy for the temptation to question their faith, Jesus encouraged them to trust.

Perhaps we have known the great joy of being strengthened in our faith: by loving parents and other adults who have helped us to grow at various points along our journey.  Maybe we have already experienced moments in our lives when we are certain that the Lord is putting us to the test.  We might know at some level that such experiences always result in some kind of growth, but until we experience this growth for ourselves, there will always be some element of doubt or even skepticism.

Today, let us welcome the advice that Jesus offered to the disciples.  It is also being offered to us: if our faith is tested at times and if we find ourselves facing some kind of trial or challenge, let us turn to God and ask him to strengthen our faith and to teach us to trust in Him.

Have a great day.